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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Walk 172 Westward Ho! to Bideford (Devon)

Walk 172 Westward Ho! To Bideford (Devon)

(Third leg of English coastal walk – Lands End to Bristol)

Map: L/R 180
Distance: 8 miles or 14 km approx
Difficulty: quite easy
Terrain: coastal path and road
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Frequent buses between Bideford and Westward Ho!

Follow the promenade out of Westward Ho! and then the track alongside Northiam Country Park and golf course. Much of the country park is salt marsh some of which is unaffected by tides allowing sheep and horses to graze. Cockles, mussels and clams attract wading birds including curlews, oyster catchers and egrets. Brent geese also spend the winter here. The pebble ridge which extends along this bit of coastline has been caused naturally by the waves. Out at sea are 22 turbines belonging to the Fullabrook Wind Farm.

Follow the path around the coast alongside where the River Taw and River Torridge meet and on to Appledore. There is a pleasant promenade here which faces the bank opposite. Appledore has always been a sea faring place, for example in 1580 15 vessels and 115 mariners were based here. Local salmon fishermen have also landed their catches for many years. The bed of the estuary is home to some animals with special features. These include the tiny pea crab that lives inside mussel shells and various worms and snails.

On the way out of Appledore is a quay and dry dock. The latter was big enough to hold two large vessels and was badly needed in Napoleonic times to build and repair ships. Associated trades such as chandlery and sail and rope making helped to make the village very prosperous. It was also used in World War 2 when landing craft, motor gunboats and mine sweepers were needed.

Follow the walk down the River Torridge, under the A39 bridge and into Bideford. As you walk in, look out for the Charles Kingsely statue marking his association with the area especially Westward Ho! and Clovelly. The main street into the town is also the quayside. In the 16th century, during the time of local man Sir Richard Greville, Bideford was Britain's third port. He mounted his expedition to the Americas from here and most of his crewmen were from Bideford. On one expedition, to North America he brought home a red Indian servant whom he christened Raleigh. The servant died after a year and is buried in Bideford churchyard.

Further along the quay is the 16th century Kings Arms, the only pub left along the quayside. With its many original beams, this is a good place to break for refreshments.

Before leaving Bideford, do not miss the sombre plaque on the side of the town hall. 'In memory of Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles all of Bideford hanged in 1682, the last to be executed in England for the crime of witchcraft'.

Photos: Appledore; The Kings Arms, Bideford.

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